Patrick Kane said he was more nervous for this regular-season game than he’s been in a long time.
How could he not be? After weeks of hearing his name in trade speculation, fielding questions about it and then sitting at home while the only team he had ever known played three games without him, the inertia of Kane’s life only sped up once the deal was called in to the league office and he officially became a Ranger on Tuesday.
Most players who are traded are asked about their last 24 hours. For Kane, the more appropriate time frame in question is probably the last week.
One day he was in Chicago, where he spent all 16 years of NHL career. The next, he was headed to New York.
And in a blink of an eye, Kane was skating out to a thunderous applause Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“The guys were kind of whispering about it around the room a little bit, but I didn’t really know what it was going to be like until I got out there,” Kane said after the Rangers fell 5-3 to the Senators. “Warm-ups, the pregame introduction, it’s pretty cool. It’s an amazing place to play.”
For Kane, putting on a Rangers jersey kind of felt like all the times he played for Team USA at the World Championships or the Olympics. It’s different equipment and gear. It takes some getting used to.
For so long, however, Kane always came back to the red, white and black Blackhawks sweater. Now, that won’t be the case. For at least the next two months — but the Rangers hope it’ll be more like three and a half — Kane will be in Rangers blue.
“You go back and forth in your head a bunch of times about a trade, but I just feel like this is such an amazing opportunity with what they have going on here in New York,” Kane said in his first press conference as a Ranger Thursday afternoon. “And you know, when the option was still there to possibly make a move, it wasn’t the easiest decision, but I’m just really excited to be here.
“With this team, with the amount of skill and good players that they have here, it’s just another chance to make a run.
“I felt like it’d be a good experience and get out of [my] comfort zone a bit and be able to play for a different franchise, different team.”
Kane, who hadn’t seen game action since Feb 22, looked like a player with some rust and jitters. Finishing with four shots on goal in 19:36 of ice time, the 34-year-old was positively noticeable at times, but it was obvious just how badly he wanted to come up with a big play in his debut with a new team.
That won’t be a factor going forward. Kane will get another game Saturday afternoon in Boston before a four-day stretch of practices to further acclimate.
There certainly were encouraging signs for the potential resurgence of Kane’s chemistry with his former teammate, Artemi Panarin, who first skated on a line with Kane during their two seasons together with the Blackhawks. Panarin couldn’t help but joke that he was “pissed off” when he heard the Rangers had traded for his former linemate.
All jokes aside, the Russian wing has been open about how well he feels he and Kane mesh together on the ice.
“You try to remember your roots and everything, but it’s the chemistry we had from six, seven years ago,” Kane said of how it felt to play with Panarin again. “Like I said earlier this morning, I don’t think it’s something that’s going to happen overnight. But we’ll find it.”
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